Paul Pelosi details attack and arduous recovery while on stand in DePape federal trial

Paul Pelosi arrives for an official State Dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 22, 2023. - Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Paul Pelosi recounted publicly for the first time Monday the shock he felt last year as he awoke to a man armed with a hammer in the San Francisco home he shares with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, telling jurors how he later came to in a pool of blood after he was violently struck in the head.

“It was a tremendous shock to recognize that somebody had broken into the house and looking at him and looking at, you know, the hammer and the ties, I recognized that I was in serious danger. So I tried to stay as calm as possible,” Pelosi, 83, testified in a California courtroom during the federal trial of David DePape, which began last week.

DePape has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of assault on the immediate family member of a federal official and the attempted kidnapping of a federal official in connection with the attack. He faces a maximum of 30 years and 20 years, respectively, if found guilty on the charges.

Prosecutors say DePape broke into the Pelosis’ home in the early hours of October 28, 2022, with “a violent plan to kidnap Nancy Pelosi, to hold her hostage, to break her kneecaps, to teach her a lesson.” DePape’s lawyer, however, has argued he struck Paul Pelosi with a hammer in “a quick moment of despair” when police arrived.

Paul Pelosi told the jury Monday that a man, later identified by police as DePape, had asked where his wife was. “She’s not here. She’s in Washington,” he recalled answering.

Pelosi had placed a 911 call from a cell phone charging in the bathroom of his home, but said Monday that he was unable to fully convey the seriousness of the situation at the time out of fear for his life. He can be heard in audio released from that call, appearing to attempt to tell the dispatcher he was in danger, as DePape listened in.

He led DePape to the lower level of his home, Paul Pelosi said, thinking that police could quicker intercept the man there. “I’m thinking, I hope the police got my message. But I knew that my only shot was that if we were downstairs and the police came, it would be much easier to arrest him. God knows what would have happened if we were upstairs,” he testified.

When the police arrived at the residence, Paul Pelosi was able to open the front door with DePape following behind him.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” he recounted. “[DePape] had a hammer in his right hand, and so I recognized that he saw the police, I turned and tried to put my hand on his hand on the hammer. And then he just pushed me aside and hit me on the head.”

Body-cam footage from law enforcement who arrived at the Pelosis’ home appears to show the men each with a hand on the hammer and DePape holding Paul Pelosi’s arm when officers open the door. When officers demand that DePape drop the hammer, he declines, taking the hammer from Paul Pelosi and striking him in the head. The officers then rushed into the home, subduing DePape and handcuffing him.

Paul Pelosi told the jury that he doesn’t recall the rest of the attack, with his next recollections of waking up in a pool of blood and being put in an ambulance.

A spokesman for Nancy Pelosi said following the attack that her husband had undergone surgery “to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands.” The recovery since, Paul Pelosi testified Monday, has been been arduous, with bouts of lightheadedness and headaches.

“I’ve made the best effort I possibly can to not revisit this,” he said.

A neurosurgeon who treated his injuries is expected to take the stand this week, with the trial drawing to a close in the coming days. Responding San Francisco Police officers, FBI agents and Capitol Police have already testified.

Jodi Linker, a defense attorney for DePape, conceded on the first day of trial last week that her client did attack Paul Pelosi, but argued that his motivation for the assault did not match the charges against him.

She said that his attack on Paul Pelosi was not in response to Nancy Pelosi’s actions in her official capacity as then-speaker of the House. Instead, Linker argued it was motivated by his belief that Nancy Pelosi was part of a larger plot to “manipulate the country, to spread lies, and to steal votes from Donald Trump.”

DePape has also pleaded not guilty to a litany of charges in state court, including for assault and attempted murder. A date for that trial will be set later this month.

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